And the Radical Literary Beat Goes On …..

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In 1962 I officially became a Beatnik at the age of 11. There were no official notices, no immediate black clothing; I just got up one morning and started to write bad poetry and that was that. The primary inspiration was the fact that my father said that Jack Kerouac was a bad influence on young people. That was enough for me and I admired how he angered some people in his piece “On the Road”, telling everyone they were going to die.

Kerouac was very popular where I lived in Quebec because his parents were ‘joual’* speaking French Canadians. Of course they eventually moved to Massachusetts, but his official name was Jean Louis Kerouac and that was enough for all my French Canadian friends.

 

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All photos and text by Linda Seccaspina 2016

 

My Beatnik outfit of choice was: a green wool crew neck sweater that barely covered my derriere, scarlet red tights and a matching beret. There were no smoke filled finger-snapping caves of poetry where I lived in Cowansville, Quebec, so I created my own. I constantly carried a notebook containing silly poems about boys, the moon and love so true instead of homework.

Creatively speaking I had no worldly visions that my words would be seen as obscenity motivated because of the pink lace that trimmed my notebook. I simply sat in my room that I had painted deep turquoise with a long black cigarette holder holding a Popeye cigarette in my mouth as I wrote. From the day I opened my Ottawa store in 1974 until I closed it in 1997 I carried a vast variety of cigarette holders. I always blamed it on my weekend beatnik youth.

 

In 1964 I watched my Grandfather abandon his Reader Digest Condensed books for Marshall McLuhan. I had no idea what he was talking about after reading a chapter of the well worn paperback. Grampy would slowly try to explain to me all about McLuhan’s meaning of the light bulb while I talked about The Beatles. He would then playfully hit me on the head with the book and ask me to check the condition of my inner light bulb. Seeing my Grandfather was fairly conservative I wondered how he knew about this man and figured that he must have seen him on the TV show Front Page Challenge*. Grampy’s interests did not venture anywhere else unless Pierre Berton* talked about someone or they were on The Ed Sullivan Show.

 

 

 

 

In the 60’s my friends and I took the bus to Montreal on Saturdays and would hand out flowers and words of peace at the Place Ville Marie plaza. People would come up to the “girl with the flowers in her hair” and the long winded words and ask if ‘she’ was from San Francisco. I would just smile from ear to ear as that was the highest compliment anyone could give me.

 

Protest songs turned to Leonard Cohen and I constantly analyzed his poetry. Day after day in the late 60’s I would sit in the CNR station in Montreal and watch people go by. I would read Cohen’s poetry books over and over and wish I was his beloved “Suzanne.” In a dark smoke filled bar on Mountain Street I would sit and listen to hours of bad poetry yet performing my own was out of the question. In my mind I could never beat Cohen nor the other radical literary masters so my words remained silent. Years later I would meet Cohen on a flight to Los Angeles with his then much younger girlfriend Rebecca DeMornay. I took his hand by the baggage turnstile and told him of my love for his work in the 60’s. He smiled, and said softly,

 

“My dear the years have been kind to you”.

 


With those words I suddenly felt old but happy and never strayed from appreciating the minds of radical literary geniuses. As Herbert Huncke once said to Allen Ginsberg,

“Sure I’m old, and I’m evil, and I’m ugly, and I’m tired. But that isn’t it. I’ve been this way for ten years, and I’m all down the main line.”

 

And so the beat goes on…

 


Photos and text: Linda Seccaspina 2011

 

* Joual- A dialect of Canadian French characterized by nonstandard pronunciations and grammar, and the presence of English loanwords and syntactic patterns.

*Front Page Challenge was a long-running Canadian panel game about current events and history. Created by comedy writer/performer John Aylesworth and produced and aired by CBC Television, the series ran from 1957 to 1995.

 

*Pierre Berton– (July 12, 1920 – November 30, 2004) was a noted Canadian author of non-fiction, especially Canadiana and Canadian history, and was a well-known television personality and journalist.

An accomplished storyteller, Berton was one of Canada’s most prolific and popular authors. He wrote 50 books, including ones on popular culture, Canadian history, critiques of mainstream religion, anthologies, children’s books and historical works for youth. He popularized Canadian history.

 

 

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About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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